On Aug. 29, the Treasury Department announced that a senior Islamic State official, Salim Mustafa Muhammad al-Mansur, had been added to the US government’s list of specially designated global terrorists. The move was carried out in conjunction with the Iraqi government, which seeks “to bar Mansur from the Iraqi financial system and freeze any assets he may have subject to Iraq’s jurisdiction.”
Mansur was identified as the Islamic State’s “finance emir for Mosul,” Iraq earlier this year. But according to Treasury he is not located in Iraq, as he “moved to Turkey.” The US listed three locations inside Turkey — Mersin, Istanbul, and Adana — where he has been based.
The US did not explain how Mansur has been able to operate inside Turkey without being arrested by local authorities. But Treasury’s announcement makes it clear that American officials will continue to seek to disrupt the Islamic State’s “financial networks regardless of geographic location.”
That is, Mansur could not avoid be sanctioned as a terrorist simply by relocating to Turkey.
John E. Smith, the director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), emphasized this fact. “Treasury continues to work in close collaboration with the Government of Iraq to dismantle ISIS financial networks both inside and outside of ISIS-controlled territory,” Smith said. “This action underscores the United States’ resolve to work with international partners to further restrict ISIS’s ability to abuse the US and Iraqi financial systems.”
The US has previously identified Islamic State networks inside Turkey. In June, for instance, Treasury designated Fared Saal (a German-Algerian jihadi also known as Abu Luqmaan Al-Almani) as a terrorist. The US explained that Saal “recruited potential ISIS members and facilitated their travel to Syria by providing them with specific contacts to reach out to once they arrived at the airport in Istanbul.” The “contacts” Saal provided to the caliphate’s new believers “would then help facilitate the recruits’ onward travel to the Turkish/Syrian border.” [See FDD’s Long War Journal report: Islamic State facilitator moved recruits through Turkey, US says]
While the Islamic State’s facilitation networks inside Turkey have long been known and are sometimes disrupted by Turkish authorities, Mansur’s case raises a host of questions concerning how such a senior figure could operate in the country. It is possible that the American and Iraqi governments announced the sanctions placed on Mansur in order to pressure the Turkish government into taking action.
Treasury describes Mansur as a veteran financier. He was working for the Islamic State’s “predecessor,” al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), by “late 2009,” if not earlier. He served as “an AQI commander involved in fundraising activities to support terrorism in Iraq.”
Mansur was financing the Islamic State’s operations in Mosul months before it declared itself a caliphate. “In early 2014,” Treasury says, “Mansur was involved in moving hundreds of thousands of Iraqi dinars to ISIS in Mosul.”
In 2015, Mansur “laundered and transferred money on behalf of ISIS.” By the middle of 2016, “he was responsible for selling crude oil that ISIS extracted from oil fields in Iraq and Syria.”
But as the US makes clear, Mansur no longer operates in territory controlled by the self-declared caliphate. Instead, he moved to Turkey sometime before the fall of Mosul in July.